Tracie Lockwood Shines in “Hostage” at the Skylight Theatre

If you keep a list of rock solid A-list stage actresses in Hollywood, then you’re already familiar with the name Tracie Lockwood. Winner of a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Featured Performance (A Permanent Image at Rogue Machine), Tracie also garnered two nominations for Supporting Actress from the Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Awards and from Stage Raw, as well as six other ensemble awards for productions she has appeared in Los Angeles.

Currently, Tracie is on stage at the Skylight Theatre in a new play called Hostage by Michelle Kholos Brooks. One of the most compelling, heart rendering productions currently showing in L.A., Hostage is based on a little known but true story the story took place during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. A rogue mother from Wisconsin travels to Iran to save her son who has been taken prisoner by the Iranian revolutionaries. It is a highly personal take on the incident and uncovers an unexpected connection between two disparate cultures. At a time when the U.S. State Department was unable to help the hostages during the 444 day stand off, the human spirit proved bigger than politics.

Tracie is dynamic as “Barbara Timm,” the mother who makes the trip against all odds, and L.A. audiences are once again taking notice of her strength as an actress. The Los Angeles Times noted “Lockwood’s deceptively unassuming performance is a beacon of authenticity that lights the stage…emotionally shattering.”

Zachary Grant and Tracie Lockwood

We were able to sit down with her between shows to find out more about her role and the play:

HR: Why did you want to take on this role?

Tracie: Because it spoke to me on a cellular level. I am a mother myself; the story is very compelling for two major reasons. First, the idea that this is based on a true story…that Barbara, the character I play, actually did this crazy thing despite her governments objections. She gets on a plane and flies to a hostile country to ask her sons captors to release him, that’s just a beautiful crystallization of what it means to be a mother and what lengths you are willing to go to for your children.

Second, because, especially as a mom, at this point in our political climate it seemed very important to me to tell stories that reflect our common humanity and fragility. At its core, this story asks us to stop demonizing each other as merely reflections of our politics, governments or belief systems and asks us to look at one another as humans with different but equally relevant worldviews.

Cast of “Hostage”

HR: What was the most difficult part about preparing for this role?

Tracie: Honestly, this show was a not difficult. The cast is wonderful, Michelle the writer, and Elina de Santos, the director (who are both mother’s themselves) are incredible and collaborative artists who encouraged us to really play and explore and to keep the central story of a mothers love front and center in our minds, so I got a lot for free.

Maybe the only danger is getting too comfortable in the repetition of doing it over and over and allowing yourself to forget for even a moment how truly shocking, harrowing, and brave the whole thing really was. I think about how quickly your comfortable situation can change, and then I am able to click right into Barb’s story.

HR: How does your experience differ at the Skylight Theatre, from other L.A. theaters?

Tracie: Somehow, at the Skylight, I always seem to get cast as a Republican. I’ve done two world premieres there, the other being Church and State by Jason Odell Williams. In both plays my characters, though wildly different, could be summed up as Republican women who start out with very conventional, conservative worldviews. They are challenged by an extraordinary event and as a result, they change slightly which in turn also challenges what are often very liberal audiences, stereotypical views on Republican women.

Cast of “Hostage”

HR: How have audiences been reacting to this play?

Tracie: Very positive. It has not been uncommon for people to contact me days after seeing the show. Many say that they are still thinking about it, processing it and being impacted by it. It’s a quick ride but such a roller coaster, and it really doesn’t give you a break emotionally once it starts. Because of the three quarter staging and the way that the two timelines weave in and out of each other, the audience is kind of in the hostage room(s). During some performances it has been so quiet in the house that you can hear a pin drop and the audience is just holding their breath waiting to see what happens and other nights the audience takes every opportunity to laugh. Michelle Kholos Brooks has very cleverly included some really funny moments to act as pressure valves that release a little tension. But, as we get to the end we can usually always hear a fair amount of sniffling in the house. We’re really proud of this production. It’s a compelling story, at a compelling time.

HR: Thanks for talking with us, Tracie.

Tracie: Thank you.

Satiar Pourvasei, Zachary Grant, Tracie Lockwood and Vaneh Assadourian

Skylight continues with their post Sunday matinee series, “Beyond Conversation,” free to audiences who attend the performance. The discussion panels allow audiences to gain deeper insights into the contemporary themes of the play. A full list of guest speakers, dates and topics will be posted on Skylight’s website http://www.skylighttheatre.org

HOSTAGE runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm; 2:00pm on Sundays; and 8:00pm on Mondays through June 24, 2018.

The cast includes Vaneh Assadourian (Tehran Mary), Jack Clinton (Kenny), Zachary Grant (Kevin), Christopher Hoffman (Richard), Tracie Lockwood (as Barbara), and Satair Pouvasei (Ebrahim)

Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027.

Tickets are $15 – $39.99. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or 866-811-4111. Online at http://SkylightTix.com

 

 

 

Bernardo Cubría Reveals the Genesis of “The Giant Void In My Soul” at The Pico in West L.A.

May 14, 2016

Ammunition Theatre Company is a fairly new, and young, artistic group in Los Angeles, known for their diversity and passion for activism. They foster young playwrights, and champion works that are crafted with inclusivity in mind.

Currently, they are presenting the world premiere of Bernardo Cubría’s latest work, The Giant Void In My Soul at The Pico (formerly Pico Playhouse). This play reaches across social, political, and cultural divides during a crisp 90-minute performance with characters, written as clowns, in a Commedia dell’ arte style. Taking on big big questions and goals in life, it still manages to mine the humor and relatable ironies that we all face when of searching for meaning in life.

Bernardo Cubría

The Giant Void In My Soul is insightful, spot on with excellent performances. We sat down with playwright Bernardo Cubría who gave us a look at how it all came about:

HR: What Was The Genesis Of This Play For You?

Bernardo: Last year, I was sitting at home one day feeling quite depressed and I recognized the absurdity yet universality of this emptiness I was feeling. Here I was -privileged enough to pursue my passion and make a living, married to an amazing partner, living in a great place with great friends, family, etc. Yet something felt off. It dawned on me – maybe we just all have a giant void in our souls? Influenced by the silence in Waiting For Godot and the friendship in Don Quijote, I banged out a first draft two days later on a flight to New York. And, surprise! The “void” is STILL NOT FILLED!

HR: How Long Did It Take For You To Write This Play?

Bernardo: About 8 months of writing on and off. But for me, these things are never done. I sit in the audience every night and think of changes I still may make for the next run. My dream is that the play keeps getting done in different venues for many years, and I that I can continue to tweak things in each of the iterations. Once, when I was acting in a production of Burn This, Lanford Wilson gave me a line change the night before opening. I thought to myself, ‘this play is an iconic masterpiece, why are you changing things?!’ Lanford said the play wasn’t finished. I get it now.

HR: Had You Considered Writing This Play With Traditional Characters Instead Of Clowns?

Bernardo: Not really. Sadly for my wallet, I see the world in terms of clowns. I love clowning because it gets to the essence of what humans are. Forget race, gender, class, etc., let’s talk about what makes humans human, and what makes this whole human experience hilarious. Also, I wanted to write a script where any actor of any race or gender could play the roles. So it kind of has to be clowns. I promise they are not scary!

HR: Can You Share Something About Your Background That Influenced You To Become The Artist That You Are Today?

My grandmother was a poet in Mexico. And I grew up in awe of her, always longing to follow in her footsteps. She was so creative. She would speak casually and it always sounded like poetry and wisdom. My favorite line in this play is something she used to say. In an effort to post no spoilers I will say it’s about how life is a theatre. She was magical. I like to think that she would have liked this play.

Directed by Felix Solis and produced by Julie Bersani and J. Michael Feldman, this cast includes Karla Mosley, Kim Hamilton, Claudia Doumit, and Lisa Fernandez in roles written for any gender or ethnicity.

The Giant Void in My Soul, by Bernardo Cubría, runs on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 7pm through June 3, 2018 (understudy performance on May 27th). The Pico is located at 10508 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90064. Tickets are $25 online https://thegiantvoid.eventbee.com, or $30 at the door. Website: http://ammunitiontheatre.com

A Fight Well Fought at “The Alamo” Now Running at Ruskin Group Theatre

by Peter Foldy

Ruskin Group Theatre continues to celebrate the essence of arts and humanity with the world premiere of THE ALAMO by Ian McRae. This is their second decade of bringing Los Angeles audiences unique staging’s of live entertainment.

The Ruskin Goup Theatre, located at the Santa Monica airport, is an intimate space with approximately 55 seats, where you can see some of the best actors in the business. Bobby Costanzo who plays Joey, an ex-cop who also narrates some background history, and Tim True who plays Munce, the long time owner of the neighborhood bar, are two actors in an ensemble of nine that keep the action lively in this play, beautifully directed by Kent Thompson.

Bobby Costanzo, Tim True, Jack Merrill and John Lacy in “The Alamo”

The play takes place in the blue-collar Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn where a rundown neighborhood institution called The Alamo; the last great American bar, is struggling to survive. With an aging clientele, the place is fighting to keeps it’s doors open and the only hope seems to be the arrival of artist/musician/millennials who are moving into the neighborhood and wanting to adopt the bar as an entertainment hangout. The regulars don’t want to surrender their bar, much less their neighborhood, without a fight which presents a humorous and dramatic portrait of working class natives who always seem to find themselves on the front lines of change in America.

Actors Bobby Costanzo (Joey) and Tim True (Munce) talk about their rewarding experience with the project:

HR: What was it about Ian McRae’s play that made you want to be involved with this production?

BC: I thought that Ian’s play was poignant, funny and had a kind of Eugene O’Neill realism as in THE ICEMAN COMETH. I loved the idea personally of being a narrator working the audience (my secret nightclub persona)and then stepping into the action of the play.

 TT: I met the director, Kent Thompson, at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. When I heard he was in LA to direct a new play, “The Alamo,” I wanted to audition. While reading the script I was drawn in by the rich tapestry of characters. It reminded me of some of the folks at my local watering hole in Astoria Queens where I lived for awhile after grad school.

HR: Had you worked together previously, or done a play at the Ruskin Theatre?

BC: I had not worked with any of the cast before but I’m very impressed with everybody’s talent and professionalism.

 TT: Never. This is my first show at Ruskin and with everyone in the cast. I moved here from Portland Oregon, where I was pretty much full time in theatre. I co-founded a company there, Third Rail, that’s been around since 2005. When I came to Los Angeles I stopped doing theatre so that I could focus on the TV/Film thing, but once I was able to gain some momentum on that side I felt that I could do both.

I love working with everyone in the cast, they are really wonderful, and particularly Eileen Galindo, who plays my wife Carmen, and Kelsey Griswold and Julia Arian, who alternate in the role of Michaela – my Goddaughter. I have 2 key scenes with those characters and we’ve gotten close during the run.

HR: Were there surprises or unexpected character discoveries during the rehearsal process?

BC: As in all good writing you get to discover that nobody is overtly evil or malicious but usually has their own sort of “Rashomon” way of looking at things, coming from their own perspective, which is either reinforced or changed by their interactions with others. I feel that “Joey” (my character in the play) sees that, after his scene with Carmen, he knows he’s been selfish and demanding of her and not appreciated her emotional and physical pain.

TT: Oh lord, I guess so. Munce is a guy, who will tell you he doesn’t have many regrets, but the fella really lives there – in the past.

HR: You both have impressive film and TV credits, and you keep coming back to the theatre. What is it that you love most about working on stage?

BC: The immediacy and challenge of “getting it up,” so to speak, and discovering the way that each audience changes inflections and deliveries of moments within the play. It is truly the actors’ medium.

TT: Theatre was my career from the moment I decided that I wanted to act, which incidentally was as a freshman in high school getting a big hug from one of the senior girls after a curtain call. I trained in the classics, performing Shakespeare for about 10 years. I really love the use of language and how aural a play is. It’s the words and phrases, sure. But I also love finding a character’s rhythm, and where he places the sound – where, in his mouth, and where, in his body he resonates from.

HR: What other projects are coming up for you after this show closes?

BC: I’ll be playing “Uncle Bud in a new comedy called Champions debuting on NBC.

TT: I’m forming a theatre company, called Door Number 3. We will present Martin McDonagh’s “The Lonesome West” at the Odyssey Theatre this fall. I’m recurring in an upcoming Netflix series…but I can’t say more without pissing off the producers and endangering my family and everyone I care about.

The Alamo runs on Fridays and Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm through May 12, 2018. Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $27 – $30 and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at www.ruskingrouptheatre.com . Free parking available on site.

The cast includes Bobby Costanzo (Joey), Eileen Galindo (Carmen), Nancy Georgini (Claudine), Milica Govich (Mary), Julia Arian (Micaela/Alternate), Kelsey Griswold (Micaela /Alternate), John Lacy (Dominic), Jack Merrill (Tick), and Tim True (Munce)

Running time: 1 hour and 55 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

Production Photos by Ed Krieger

 

 

Actors Dylan Wittrock and J.B. Waterman Discuss “The Red Dress”

By Peter Foldy

Set in Berlin and inspired by a true story, Tania Wisbar’s romantic drama, THE RED DRESS, currently playing at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A, explores the intersection of politics and art during the years between the Treaty of Versailles and the rise of Fascism. The play tells story of “Alexandra Schiele,” a famous film actress from a prominent Jewish family, who falls in love with a down-on-his-luck World War I vet, “Franz Weitrek.” Franz parlays his wife’s connections into work as a film director, but when his career takes off making Nazi propaganda films, his wife suddenly becomes a liability.

We caught up with DYLAN WITTROCK who portrays “Officer Dieter Keller” and J.B. WATERMAN who plays “Franz” and asked them to share their thoughts about the show.

HOLLYWOOD REVEALED: Hi, guys.

JB Waterman

DYLAN: Hello.

HR: Can you tell us how you got involved with this production?

J.B: A cast mate of mine in a different play was working with the casting director of The Red Dress and thought I’d be a good fit for the role of Franz. He encouraged me to audition. I had worked with (director) Kiff Scholl, before and I was lucky enough to land the role.

DYLAN: I auditioned.

HR: A play about radicalization seems timely and important. Did you have much knowledge about Germany prior to WW II?

J.B: I only knew about the contradictory images, the liberal and artistic Weimar Republic Germany, depicted in the film and the play, Cabaret, and on the opposite end, the radical plays of Bertolt Brecht.

DYLAN: I knew a little about the years leading up to the war from the American and British standpoint, but I knew very little about Germany itself between the two world wars.

HR: Were you able to sit down and chat with the playwright about the story?

DYLAN: Yes, Tania being around was definitely valuable.

J.B: She and I talked a lot during rehearsals. She shared some of the differences between Franz and her real father, Frank. Franz is softer and a bit more sympathetic, than her father was.

Dylan Wittrock

DYLAN: Tania was able to provide a lot of information about what the political and social climate was like in Germany during the period between the two world wars. Her insights helped me to grasp what it would be like to grow up during that very volatile time.

HR: What was your take away from all that?

J.B: I was particularly drawn to the complexity of the German political and social situation  after World War I that she brought to my attention. It was an open marketplace for depictions of the truth and political theories.  The “truth” was being shaped by competing powers.

HR: What’s the most challenging thing about the role you guys are playing? What process did you use to shape and define your character?

J.B: I felt that Franz was not a born soldier but an artist who was forced to go to war. That’s a big piece of what I build the character around. I guess the most challenging thing was having to empathize with the Nazi party and their propaganda about Jews. There isn’t a lot of justification in the script about why Franz feel that way, so I had to come up with it myself.  I think a lot of my motivation has to do with overcoming the character’s PTSD and reclaiming what WW I took from him.  Franz believes that the Jews were suppressing German national pride and as an actor I tried to dig into believing that.

HR: What about you, Dylan?

DYLAN: Tania really wanted the audience to see my character, Dieter Keller, as someone who is coming into his own. In the second act he has total control over the other two characters, but he’s still a little green, so he gets very uncomfortable when his authority is questioned. Showing that vulnerability while still maintaining the control that the scene demands is quite a challenge, but it also gives the character nuance and depth. When you’re dealing with a character that has become almost archetypal in popular culture, you need to find every little thing about him that is unique and personal.

HR: So where are you guys from and how long have you been in L.A?

DYLAN: I was born in Lenox, Massachusetts, grew up for a few years in Chicago, then moved to LA when I was 8. I went to college in San Francisco then moved to New York for three years. Been back in LA for a year now.

J.B: I’m from Bainbridge Island, Washington. I lived in Chicago after college Moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago.

HR: When did you first know that you wanted to be an actor?

DYLAN: I was practically born on stage. My father and brother are both actors, so I grew up loving acting. I was in my first Shakespeare play when I was 5, and I’ve never stopped performing. I questioned whether I wanted to pursue acting as a career during college when I became a Spanish major. I stopped performing for about a year and was miserable, so after graduating I went right back to it.

J.B: For me it was in our community theater production of Snow White. I was only 9 but being onstage was intoxicating. I loved the lights, I loved the make believe, I loved that it was a serious play.

HR: What was your first paid acting gig? Did it get you a SAG or an Equity card?

DYLAN: It was a commercial for JC Penny that I was in when I was 13. It never aired, but I used the money to buy a drum set. I got my SAG card from one-liner on the show Power.

J.B: My first paid acting gig was as a non-equity actor in a show at the Berkshire Theatre company in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  It was $45.00 paid per week, room and board included. I remember staring at that check in disbelief. Someone was actually paying me to do this.

HR: What TV shows have you binge watched lately?

DYLAN: Mindhunter is amazing. I’m also loving Stranger Things.

J.B: Transparent and I love Dick. Jill Soloway does such creative, risky and fun storytelling. I love her obsession with her themes; gender, identity, feminism, sex. Even when I get mad and disagree with what she does or says (in the shows) I still love that she has the balls to say them.

HR: What’s next for you guys?

J.B: I’m directing a production of Chekhov’s The Seagull in the spring that I hope will make people laugh a lot and change the world.

DYLAN: I’m looking forward to the release of a couple short films I shot last year. Other than that just trying to audition as much as possible and work on creating something of my own.

HR: Thanks for chatting, guys, and enjoy the rest of the run.

J.B: Thank you.

The Red Dress is performed: Fridays & Saturdays @ 8 pm and Sundays @ 2 p.m. thru Nov. 19 at The Oddyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles, CA  90025

Running time: 1 hour and 50 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Tickets: $15

Call (323) 960-5521 or visit www.Plays411.com/reddress

Production Stills: Ed Kreiger

 

 

40 Years with Gonads and Still Going Strong

by Peter Foldy

THE GONADS are a beer-loving, good time seeking street-punk rock band.

Formed in 1977, the band has been gigging regularly since they got back together in 1994. Since then they’ve played France, Germany, Sweden, the USA, all over the UK. They have achieved a smash indie-chart hit with their first E.P. Pure Punk For Row People.

Music success aside, Gonads lead singer, Gal Gonad, is perhaps best known in the UK by his alter ego, GARRY BUSHELL. A hard-hitting TV critic and an award-winning newspaper columnist, Garry was a staff writer for the UK rock weekly Sounds. He has written about bands as diverse as The Specials, The Ruts and Iron Maiden as well as the street-punk phenomenon known as Oi! He has penned a series of hard-boiled pulp fiction novels and has appeared on more than 2,000 TV shows. Garry’s own late night TV show ran for two years on ITV, attaining an audience share high of 68%. Howard Stern once dubbed him “my ambassador in England”.

We caught up with Gal/Garry via skype prior to his band’s triumphant return to Los Angeles.

Hollywood Revealed: How do you feel about doing your 40th year anniversary with the Gonads right here in Hollywood, California?

Garry: I love it! It’s fantastic. Where better than the  dream factory of the Western world to celebrate a living nightmare like the magnificent Gonads?

HR: How many songs are in the new Punk Rock Sob Stories that is coming out this Christmas?

Garry: The first collection had forty songs, and the new one will be at least that many. I’m just trying to whittle them down.

HR: We understand you will be casting for a film about the Gonads while you are in Los Angeles. What is that all about?

Garry: Yes, we are holding a casting session on November 12th at Beach Dancer Films. It’s an open call and the band and I will be looking for actors to play younger versions ourselves for a movie that will start production in 2018.

HR: Besides being the lead singer of the Gonads, you are also a columnist, covering, among other things, music and television.

Garry: Correct.

HR: What is a day in the life of a TV critic like?

Garry: Long and lonely, interrupted only by the comings and goings of take-away curry deliveries. I get up, I watch TV, I make notes…then repeat, with the occasional break to walk the dog to the pub, or to relieve the frustration by playing Rancid or The Interrupters as loud as hell.

HR: How many hours a week do you have to watch TV?

Garry: At least forty, but usually more. I don’t like to miss the shows with the biggest audiences so I even keep an eye on EastEnders, the BBC’s never-ending libel against Londoners.

HR: What are your current favorite shows and what is your favorite show of all time ?

Garry: Line of Duty was excellent again this year. I’m enjoying The Deuce and I’m Dying Up Here. My all time favorite would be The Sopranos, the TV series that reinvented TV and ushered in a new golden age. For US TV, The Sopranos, Seinfeld and the early years of The Simpsons. For Brit TV, Minder, The Sweeney and Porridge. I genuinely love great TV which is why bad or patronizing shows irritate me so much.

HR: What happened with you and Piers Morgan and him printing in the papers your salary from The Gonads? Is that a true story?

Garry: Ha, almost. I had a royalty statement for our most ‘critically misunderstood’ e.p. It was a couple of bucks. Piers managed to steal it from my desk and take a picture of it which he then printed in the Bizarre showbiz column of The Sun. I’d like to apologize right now for the career of Piers Morgan because, to my eternal shame, I gave him his first job, working for me, when I ran Bizarre. He was a pompous git even then.

HR: Have you made people happy with your reviews and vice versa?

Garry: You’d have to ask them. I seem to make readers happy.

HR: Tell us about the BARFTAs?

Garry: They’re the awards I give out every year on my website for things I don’t get paid to write about – generally films, books and music.

HR: Is there a huge difference between a film critic and a TV critic ?

Garry: Absolutely. A film critic can see everything he needs to write about in under a day. Three movies and they’re done. They watch them at screenings in the West End of London in decent surroundings with a free bar…it’s a wonder they’re not transported from cinema to cinema on studio-funded palanquins.

HR: When did you first discover that you have a particular style with words which has shaped your career as a journalist ?

Garry: I used to write comedy sketches for my own amusement when I was 14 or 15 and carried some of that on when I wrote a punk fanzine in 1977. But I guess it was the Sounds years that helped developed my style, especially in the 1980s.

HR: How many books in total have you written?

Garry: Five novels – three of them pulp fiction under my own name – and thirteen other books, most of them music or comedy related.

HR: What was it like doing the autobiography on Ozzy Ozbourne, A Diary of a Mad Man?

Garry: A bit hazy. We spent 13 hours drinking on the first day, which ended with Ozzy shaving my eyebrows off. When I noticed, two days later, I was shocked…but you couldn’t tell. For various reasons I only wrote part of that book. Mick Wall wrote the rest of it.

HR: Do you spend a lot of time with your subjects?

Garry: I spent a lot of time with Iron Maiden when I wrote their authorized biography, including spells on the road with them. Bruce Dickinson nearly killed me in Florida by driving the wrong way up an exit road into four lanes of on-coming traffic. Similarly Jeff Turner’s autobiography, Cockney Reject – we spent months on that.

HR: What are you writing now?

Garry: I’m writing the fourth installment of the Harry Tyler/The Face pulp fiction series, but I’ve just been asked to write the Origins novel to tie in with the We Still Kill The Old Way film franchise, so I’m already thinking about that.

HR: How many people have written songs about you?

Garry: Quite a few – Adam Ant, Crass, The Exploited, The Notsensibles, The Warriors, the Angelic Upstarts… they’re the most well known I’d imagine. Adam Ant’s ‘Press Darlings’ was the B-side of one of his hits so for a while it seemed to be on every jukebox in every pub and every bar I went in.

HR: Where are The Gonads playing after America?

Garry: New Cross in south London for our Christmas show with the Ska legend King Hammond, and then some German dates next year.

HR: In another life who would you choose to be?

Garry: Dick Gregory’s love child.

HR: Thanks for chatting with us, Garry.

Garry: The pleasure was all mine.

 

 

 

 

Writer, Jennifer Rowland, Talks About Her Psychological Thriller, “The Lost Child”

As a fan of fairy tales, writer Jennifer Rowland has created an emotional thriller for adults, particularly harrowing for those who have parented teenagers. Writing in metaphor can be tricky, and yet the type of theatre audiences that frequent the Skylight Theatre don’t seem to mind checking their expectations, for literary realism, at the door.

An adventurous undertaking, which Rowland describes as an “allegory about parenting,” the gist of the family tale describes two perspectives of a possible abduction as a couple (now separated) meets to pack up the old cabin the woods, and to rehash old wounds. It would be the 18th birthday for the child that is now lost to them. Might she show up to blow out the candles on the cake?

The Lost Child is one of two fairy tale-like world premiere productions now running at the Skylight Theatre, a place known for developing new works. The other production, The Devil’s Wife, by Tom Jacobson, is described as a “steampunk fable of Gothic proportions.”

Jennifer Rowland says that “parenthood is harrowing – but it’s also humbling, and I think that people will laugh (and maybe scream!), in recognition of that paradoxical situation. Both of these plays at the Skylight live at the intersection of the real and the supernatural.”

 During an interview, Jennifer explained more about the inspiration for her production.

 How did the idea for this play come about?

The Lost Child is an allegory about parenting. I love fairy tales and magic realism and I’ve always been fascinated by changeling stories, where a person is taken and a magical imposter put in its place. I was doing research on child kidnapping stories and what happens to the parents whose children never come back. I know a number of parents who have children that are dealing with very serious mental health issues or substance abuse. A mother said to me, “the child I knew is gone,” and that stuck with me. As I was writing the play, I realized that every parent loses their child, that’s normal and healthy, but it’s still a loss. The adorable, charming creature of 5 is never coming back and you as a parent have to accept that.

What do you want The Lost Child to communicate, and what do you hope that audiences gain from seeing your play?

Parenting is a roller coaster ride that brings out unimaginably profound and contradictory emotions. You are shocked at the depth of love you have for your child but there are times when you want to wring her neck! Doesn’t mean that you do (most of us don’t of course) but it doesn’t mean you don’t have those feelings. When your child grows up and leaves home, that’s a good and natural thing, but both the parents and the child have to metaphorically kill each other off so that the child can become an adult and the parents can regain their own lives. I hope that The Lost Child makes you feel like you’ve been on a scary, funny, thrilling ride but that its cathartic at the end. Go home, give your kids a big hug and tell them you love them!

Do you have a consistent approach for the way you begin a new work?

I don’t think so… but my husband says I am remarkably consistent. I skulk about for a month or two claiming I am “written out” and “will never have another idea!” Then something sparks or I hear dialogue and I start writing. At a certain point, pretty early on, I figure out the tent poles of the story and then its all about structure and dialogue.

Where do you find the best material for building your characters? Are any characters in this play based on people that you know?

I suppose like most writers, I start with who and what I know. But, at certain point, a wonderful thing happens…the characters start speaking for themselves and you just write down what they say. I live for that moment!

Can you describe your development process at the Skylight theatre? Any unexpected surprises?

Working at the Skylight Theatre has been a wonderful experience! I hope I get to do it again. There are not many theaters that take chances on new work, but that is Skylight’s mission. Gary Grossman and Tony Abatemarco are experienced, smart producers who want the best for the work and work tirelessly to bring about an excellent production. The whole team, from the staff to the technical people and designers are first rate. I felt very lucky to be premiering a play there.

Writers who have influenced your career the most?

Conor McPherson, Martin McDonagh, David Grieg, Alan Ayckbourn… and I reread Death of a Salesman once a year.

What are you working on next, and when can audiences expect to see it?

I am working on a play about a political family. The father is about to announce his run for the Senate when his daughter tells him her ex-boyfriend has posted a sex tape of them. When she goes to seek solace from an old friend she hasn’t seen in a long time, the girl tells her she was raped by the would be Senator. No magic in this story, but it’s a drama about difficult choices between family ties and personal integrity. It’s called Dignity. I haven’t finished it yet so I can’t tell you where it might land! In the meantime, I have a couple other plays floating around that I hope will find a home soon.

Directed by Denise Blasor, The Lost Child stars Addie Daddio, Marilyn Fitoria, and Peter James Smith. It runs on Fridays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 7:00pm through September 3, 2017. The Devil’s Wife by Tom Jacobson, runs in rep on Saturdays at 8:30pm, Sundays 3pm through August 27, 2017. Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027. Tickets are $15 – $39. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or online at http://SkylightTix.com

The Lost Child videohttps://youtu.be/_IMtm5LsvQY

 

 

“Last Days Of Summer” Seeking First Place This Winter

Los Angeles: October 27, 2016

Festival circuit darling,  “LAST DAYS OF SUMMER” produced by British born OLIVER RIDGE, is going for another win at the upcoming Whistler Film Festival. Having taken the grand prize for best feature at the Rhode Island Film Festival, the acclaimed drama starring WILLIAM FICHTNER next goes into competition at the prestigious Canadian event, which starts Nov. 30th.

Getting great buzzOliverRidgepic (1) ahead of an anticipated theatrical release next year, the film offers the kind of role we’ve never seen before from Fichtner, best known for “ARMAGEDDON” and “PRISON BREAK” and currently starring in CBS sitcom “MOM.” In Last Days of Summer” he  plays a suburban husband whose quiet life is turned upside down when he becomes obsessed with the beautiful young woman who moves in next door.

“It was an honor to work with such a talented and dedicated actor and make art with him” said producer Ridge, whose Last Days team also included director AARON HARVEY.

Ridge made his directorial debut recently and managed to pull of a coup by being able to recruit Academy Award nominee ERIC ROBERTS to star in Ridge’s “BLUEBIRD,” a poetic short film based on one of the works of the late Charles Bukowski.

We caught up with Oliver Ridge to to talk about his experiences in Hollywood.

Hollywood Revealed: How hard has the transition beenlastdaysofsummerposter (1) for you, moving from the UK to L.A? What were some of the challenges you faced?

Ridge: Driving was pretty scary! Away from that I think media has united us recently in western culture, but certainly when you’re moving five thousand miles away from home, it can be daunting. There are so many people in Los Angeles, but I think the biggest challenge was finding like minded people who I could drink whiskey with and talk movies.

Hollywood Revealed: How did you transition from producing to directing?

Ridge: I loved producing Last Days of Summer, but it certainly made me impatient to be in creative control again. I think that desire made my pre-production for Bluebird even more detailed and thorough, so that helped smooth the transition.

Hollywood Revealed: What kind of genres interest you as a producer/director?

Ridge: Can I say all oliverstepsof them? Because they all do. I want my films to have a universal feel and tone that you can see, but I also want them all to have an emotional weight. I like exploring the darker emotions, because I want my audience to feel something. But specific genres? My next film is a revenge thriller, but I’ve also just finished writing a science fiction film and have plans for a western. So I am all over the place!

Hollywood Revealed: Who are some of the directors you look up to? Who has been your biggest influence?

Ridge: David Fincher and Denis Villeneuve are two of my all time favorites, but Nicolas Winding Refn has certainly had the biggest influence on me.

Hollywood Revealed: Thanks for chatting with us, Oliver.

Ridge: It was a pleasure.

 

Finding Your Stride In Hollywood Is Like Dating An Alien

–PLAYWRIGHT NEIL McGOWAN HAS BEEN THERE–

You just have to put yourself out there. In order to find “the one,” it can turn into a search far and wide…perhaps to other worlds. Sounds like the perfect analogy for the artists’ journey.

Neil McGowan’s new play, “My Girlfriend is An Alien! by Keith DeFacto,” is having its world premiere in Venice, California at the award winning Pacific Resident Theatre. The company’s main stage seasons are touted for their exquisite productions of the lesser-produced classics by some of the world’s best writers. Currently, Tennessee Williams’ “The Eccentricities of a Nightingale” (Critics’ Choice – LA Times; Ovation Recommended) has just extended through September 25th. But, at the other end of the same block, on their second stage, it’s a whole different world…with aliens.

Director Guillermo Cienfuegos explained, “at first glance, perhaps you see a spoof on B Science Fiction movies. Looking deeper, you’ll discover a play about a guy who’s putting on a play to get a girl to fall in love with him – and it’s not going well. This play is about the struggle of the creative process, and being brave enough to put yourself out there, and to riskImage 1 being judged. Will this guy give up and run away when things get scary, or will he take a chance and risk it all, not knowing what the outcome will be?”

Isn’t that exactly what it’s like sometimes in this town when you’re working in the business and trying to crack the code? But, this is a comedy. We caught up with writer Neil McGowan and director Guillermo Cienfuegos and got some fun and insightful perspectives on the journey of life, love, and the business of using your creative mind in Hollywood.

HR: Neil, are you into aliens or is your play a metaphor for something else? How did this piece come about and why did you choose Guillermo Cienfuegos to direct it?

Neil: Actually, the alien aspect was one of the last things to appear in my process. The play is about a writer/actor having a crisis of confidence about himself, as an artist and person, in real time during a performance of his own play. I realized that I was essentially going to have to write two plays. I knew that whatever the play-within-the-play was about should mirror, on many levels, what was happening personally to Keith DeFacto, the fictitious playwright. Themes of alienation, and not fitting in, seemed to dovetail nicely with the things that DeFacto is dealing with. It also helped to strengthen the love story that happens within the play.

My first girlfriend in high school might as well have been an alien, because my understanding of women and love in general was so unsophisticated. The result was something that was simultaneously terrifying and exciting. I would imagine falling in love with an alien at any age would be pretty similar to falling in love for the first time.

I’ve had the good fortune of working with Guillermo a few times. He directed me as an actor in a series of plays written by Keith Stevenson (who plays Keith DeFacto in “My Girlfriend is an Alien…) called “The Fried Meat Trilogy.” Guillermo is especially great with new plays, which typically need a lot more than just someone to show up and tell the actors where to stand. For this play, I really needed someone to explain to me what I had written, essentially. I knew he wouldn’t give up until the two of us, and the entire cast, solved this crazy puzzle.

HR: Guillermo, when did you become aware of “My Girlfriend is an Alien…” and what was your first impression?

Guillermo: I was a big fan of Neil’s play “Lone-Anon,” produced by Rogue Machine. I’ve always considered him to be an extremely talented and funny writer and actor, so I was happy when he asked me to direct this. I was expecting it to have an inventive, complex and unusual voice, and I was not disappointed.

HR: Why are you staging it at Pacific Resident Theatre? Aren’t they known for presenting the classics?

Neil: They have a well-earned reputation for producing classic plays, but the truth is…there is no better theater in L.A. for developing a play. Their workshop space provides a safe place for any company member to produce whatever they want, for a short run, guarded from the risk of it being reviewed. ImageMany plays from their program have become fully realized productions, even moving to New York. I hope PRT starts getting the credit it deserves for the chances it has taken with new plays and for the opportunities that it has given to emerging playwrights in this city.

Guillermo: I consider Pacific Resident Theatre to be my home, so when it came to producing “My Girlfriend is an Alien…” it was really a no brainer.

HR: What is the most essential element to get right when you’re launching a new play? How about the most challenging?

Neil: It’s different for each play. For this piece, which attempts to do so much on a few different levels, the most challenging and essential element has been clarity. Making sure that within all of the humor, pathos and high-concept ideas, there is a through-line that is easily followed and understood. But most of all it really is a comedy, so it should be purely entertaining and have the audience walking out of the theater feeling better than when they walked in.

Guillermo: With a new play, the first thing to make sure of is that the characters and relationships are clear and that the story tracks. We work-shopped the play for some time to make sure of that – although Neil’s script was pretty strong to begin with. From a director’s POV, the first essential element is the casting. Particularly, with an unusual comedy like this – the actors need to be able to approach the scenes and events in the play in a totally real way while always embracing the comic anarchy. It takes a very good and very flexible cast, which I’m thrilled to have, across the board.

HR: Why do you think that comedy is important for telling this story?

Neil: It’s difficult for me to imagine writing something that doesn’t involve a fair amount of pain, and therefore it’s impossible for me to conceive of writing something that isn’t also funny. As an audience member, I respond best to the plays, movies and TV shows that are able to get that balance right.

Guillermo: I agree. I’ve never come across any material that couldn’t be deepened and improved by finding the humor in it. The main character in this case, Keith DeFacto, finds himself facing the most challenging personal and professional crises of his life, simultaneously, and it’s all happening in front of an audience. For DeFacto, these are very real and serious problems – but that’s also fertile ground for comedy. I think Neil and I have done everything we can do to tell the story of DeFacto’s struggle, while always remembering to find the funny.

HR: Your play “Lone-Anon” was made into a film, to be released next year. Do you write plays with the idea in mind to have them developed into movies?

Neil: Not at all, it’s enough of a challenge to finish a playImage 2 without trying to imagine it in some other medium at the same time. “Lone-Anon” becoming a movie was a bit of a fluke that I wasn’t expecting. Although, I do have to say that it was a lot of fun, adapting my own idea into something completely different. Since I tend to have a lack of ideas that really excite me enough to sit down and work on, I’ve begun thinking in terms of recycling old ideas and other things that I’ve written and perhaps developing them in other media.

HR: Why do you think audiences will enjoy this play?

Guillermo: It’s a very funny script, and we have a very funny cast, so unless you don’t like laughing I think you’re going to enjoy yourself.

Neil: I feel like it hits a sweet spot. It’s uniquely thought provoking, without being too “out there.” It touches on universal feelings of self-doubt and self-worth and being human and falling in love. It manages to talk about those things in ways that feel new, and have not been seen a thousand times before. Most of all, it is just fun and filled with joy. There’s an alien, and people in funny costumes, and some of the best actors in Los Angeles.

HR: What else are you both working on now?

Guillermo: I have another play opening this month at Rogue Machine Theatre. It’s the West Coast premiere of a racially charged cat and mouse thriller called “Dutch Masters” by Greg Keller. Slightly different fare than “My girlfriend is an Alien by Keith DeFacto.” I’ve been directing them both at the same time – one during the day and one at night – for the past couple of months. It’s been a lot of fun jumping back and forth from these two very different universes.

Neil: “Loners” (the movie version of Lone-Anon) is very nearly done with post-production. We’re looking forward to the film festivals in 2017. I have another completed play I’d like to workshop at some point, but I’d really love to dive into writing something new. Whether it’s a play or movie or whatever…but I need a good idea first.

The award winning cast includes Dan Cole, Brenda Davidson, Rick Garrison, Ron Geren, Brian Letscher, Sophie Pollono, Michael Prichard, Keith Stevenson, Elspeth Weingarten, and Carole Weyers.

“My Girlfriend Is An Alien! by Keith DeFacto,” written by Neil McGowan, runs on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm (added performances on Thursdays for September 1, 8, 15, and 29) through October 2, 2016 (No performance on Saturday, Sept. 10th).

Pacific Resident Theatre is located at 703 Venice Blvd. in Venice, CA 90291.

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at http://www.pacificresidenttheatre.com or by calling (310) 822-8392.

BAFTA Award Winner, “Marty Goes To Hollywood” to Premier at Marina Del Rey Film Festival

August 7, 2016

MARTY GOES TO HOLLWOOD is a documentary about a Scottish actor, Marty Docherty, who landed a role as Tom Hank’s brother in the feature film, ‘Cloud Atlas.” Unable to afford a trip to the Hollywood premier, his friends team up to help him raise the money and decide to make a documentary about the process. Arriving in California days before the screening, the lads learn that Warner Bros. will not allow Marty to walk the red carpet. In the face of adversity they set out to defy the big studio and crash the premier, finding tremendous support and forging a life-long friendship in the process.

The film will screen at the 2016 Marina Del Rey Film Festival on August 13 at 3pm.

Hollywood Revealed: Hi, Marty.

Marty Docherty: Hello.

HR: I guess we should go back to the beginning. How did you land the role in “Cloud Atlas?”

MD: I auditioned for the part of ‘Eddie Hoggins’ in Glasgow. I thought I was maybe at the wrong audition as all the guys there were much older than me and much bigger (though that isn’t hard as I stand 5 feet 7 inches).Image I was off book for the casting and I thought it went really well. Two weeks later my agent called to say that they loved my tape and that Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski’s wanted to see me in London for a recall. I was pretty nervous but my thoughts were just keep doing what you’ve already done and you have a chance. The recall went very well and the part of Eddie Hoggins was mine. One week later it was confirmed that I was in a huge movie when they called to say that my costume fitting would be in Berlin!

HR: How was the idea for the documentary conceived?

MD: It came about when I returned back to Glasgow from filming. I met my very good friend, Ian Bustard for a pint at our favorite pub of the time, The Griffin Bar. Ian was asking me how the shoot had gone and I was regailing him with tales of Andy and Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving. It had been such an amazing time for me as “Cloud Atlas” was my first feature film and my first experience marty-docherty-488390471of something so large. Ian thought I was buzzing with the excitement of it all. He then said that I must go to the premiere in L.A. I of course said I’d love to go (and was sure I’d be invited) but there was no way I could afford it. He then said ‘why don’t we make a documentary about you raising the money to go?’ I thought that was a great idea, so Ian called Martyn Robertson, a friend, producer and film maker with his own company, Urbancroft Films. Martyn said it was the best idea he’d heard in seven years. So the concept of Marty Goes to Hollywood was born.

HR: What were your initial thoughts about actually going to Hollywood?

MD: It was a combination of nervousness and excitement. Having never been to the USA I was unsure of what to expect. I wanted to make sure that I make the best of any opportunities that came my way. Before we went we had no idea of what was going to happen so the feelings were more of excitement, of opportunity and possibility. The one thing I did know of L.A. was that there was a business there and thus opportunity. That’s the thing about being an actor… you just never know.

HR: Were you surprised when your home town got behind your plans to go to the premier?

MD: Yes, I was quite surprised at the support we got in Glasgow. The nature of people here is that of community, of wanting to help people if they can, of wanting to see one of they’re own doing well. I’m sure some people thought Radio‘who cares. It’s just some actor who wants to go to Hollywood.’  However the story started to get arms and legs and all of a sudden we were on the radio and in newspapers. Even the Lord Provost of Glasgow got involved, and we got good luck messages from Alex Salmond, Scotland first minister and the leader of the Scottish Labor Party. Glasgow is full of generous people and the bottom line is I wouldn’t have made it to Hollywood without them. Glasgow is by far the best city in the World – apart from L.A.

HR: How were you received by the British community once you arrived in L.A.?

MD: The reception we got from Brits in  L.A. was amazing. They seemed to take our story to heart and backed us all the way. We had been invited to meet them for breakfast at Cecconis, an amazing restaurant, on the Saturday morning and Tuesday morning. Craig Young and Eileen Lee, who run Brits in L.A. couldn’t do enough for us. Craig contacted his manager and arranged a meeting for me. By the time Tuesday  came round we needed help more than ever and I was absolutely bowled over with the support. Again, like so many people on this project, they helped when they didn’t need to. The best parts of human nature Melrosenever ceases to amaze me.

HR: What was the biggest misconception you had about L.A?

MD: I guess I thought it would be smaller and was amazed at the scale of the city. I also thought everyone would be a hippy, doing hot yoga, but when I got there I loved it! What’s not to like? I thought it was a very healthy city full of very beautiful people. Our days were pretty busy it was hard to appreciate certain things. I was impressed by the Roosevelt hotel! What a place!

HR: Are you surprised at all the positive reaction “Marty Goes to Hollywood” has received?

MD: Very surprised. First off I was amazed at the finished product and the great job Ian, Martyn, Chris Kinghorn, the cameraman, Thom Clark, the editor and Scott Twynholm, our music composer did. It must have been hard for those guys finding the best 53 minutes out of over 100 hours of footage.

The bottom line is that people liked our story and what we were trying to accomplish. Nothing we did was set up. That gave an honesty to us and our journey that peopleImage 3 responded to. Our story also became a bit of ‘David vs Goliath,’ and who doesn’t want to root for the underdog? The support and goodwill that came our way seemed to shine through in the film and all the people I met from the business, actors, producers in the main, loved it and loved it for different reasons. The film covers a lot of topics about being an actor and life in general and if anything it’s a film about friendship. I think that’s why people have been so positive about it. This film has been an amazing journey. Memories and friendships forged forever. The most incredible part of an 18 year acting career .

HR: Did you ever dream the the documentary would air on the BBC?

MD: I never really thought the BBC would be interested in our film. I’m not sure they would have had we not been nominated for a Scottish BAFTA New Talent Award, then subsequently winning it. I saw three or four rough cuts of the movie before I actually saw the finished version. Each time it improved as is normal with the grading process, the music etc . The final cut is an excellent film, worthy of a BAFTA nomination, if I do say so myself. Still to get in on the BBC at Christmas was just the icing on the cake. The BAFTA and the TV screening was a testament and a small reward to all those who had contributed their expertise for very little money. bafta4It was also a chance to bring the movie to a wider audience. All of which made me feel very proud and much taller than I actually am. My family and friends were particularly delighted as they had heard so much but hadn’t seen anything. In the week leading up to the TV screening the BBC advertised it about 10 times a day and we couldn’t believe it. A chat in a pub 3 years earlier had led to this?! If someone had said that to me 2 years earlier , I would have said they were a candidate for a lunatic asylum.

HR: Where did you watch it and what was that like?

MD: We went back to the Griffin bar were it had all began. Friends and family joined us. There were around 60 people there. What a buzz ! It was also a bit surreal as the TV announcer said ‘ Now on BBC2 , one man has a dream in ‘Marty Goes To Hollywood’. I thought, that’s me!!! It was like it wasn’t really happening. I looked around at a lot of those people who helped in some way and I was more interested in their reactions. People were laughing. Some were crying. I had a small moment to myself to reflect and thought how brilliant it was that we had a dream, we achieved it, we won a BAFTA 12434706_1843664495779074_1770093464_nand now we were on the BBC. I felt humbled by it all. Dreams really can come true.

HR: You’re probably more of a celebrity now for being in the documentary than for being in “Cloud Atlas.”

MD: That’s possible ! On the night of the screening I got in a taxi to go home. As I climbed in the taxi driver said, ‘Hi Marty how you’? I’d never met the man before in my life! He then said, ‘You were on the telly tonight, eh?’ Incredulously I said ‘Eh , that’s right aye ‘. I’d been on a radio program two weeks before to promote the documentary. The driver then said, ‘I really enjoyed you on the radio a couple of weeks ago’. I was pretty stunned. I guess taxi drivers know everything in Glasgow. My profile has definitely been raised by the documentary. A lot of times people pass me in street and say, ‘Awrite Marty’ (awrite is Glasgow slang for all right ). Other times people in a bar or a cafe will say, ‘ I know you. Where have we met before?’ The truth is we’ve never met but people recognize your face and think they know you. I quite enjoy it. Glasgow people are not backward at coming forward. They won’t be shy at telling you they know you. Certainly for a few months I’ve basked in the glory of my new found minor celebrity status.

HR: What are you working on now?

MD: Right now I’m doing a short film, a modern dayMGTH BAFTA FLYER (Hollywood) adaptation of Tam O ‘ Shanter, a very famous poem by Rabbie Burns with a visual arts company. I had my first day green screen filming last week. I’m very excited about it as they have a distributor in place on the strength of their  previous work. I’ve just finished playing a lawyer in 6 episodes of “River City,” the Scottish soap opera. I’m about to play a part in “Outlander” and I’m currently writing a one man show with the resident writer at the Citizens Theatre which we plan to put on in the Autumn. Exciting times!

HR: Any plans to come back to Hollywood?

MD: At the moment no. Not because I don’t want to. I would have loved to stayed on but the price of getting a work Visa there was just a bit much. However I would love to come back. I can see myself running down to muscle beach at 7am, going over my casting for that day in glorious sunshine. That’s in my dream of course, but as we’ve already proved, dreams really can come true.

HR: Thanks for chatting with us, Marty, and congratulations on all your success.

MD: Thank you.

MARTY GOES TO HOLLYWOOD screens at:

The Marina Del Rey Film Festival
3pm August 13, 2016

Cinemark 18XD
Howard Hughes Promenade
6081 Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90045
MAP

Link to the movie trailer: https://vimeo.com/149141219
Buy tickets: HERE

 

 

 

 

From TV To Indie Films, Michael Grant Is Doing It All

by Peter Hughes

Young actor, MICHAEL GRANT  pulls his black Mini Cooper into a parking spot at the same time I am trying to find a place to park myself in a dark garage below a Beverly Hills cafe.

“Hey, Michael,” I call out, never having met the man in person, but having recently seen his acting chops in the fine, new, currently unreleased drama, “Fair Haven,” he looks much like he did in the movie.

We shake hands and head 10659095_520949571370766_6154814187858732891_oupstairs to order breakfast, finding ourselves relegated to an outside table where not even the hot, high octane coffee I am sipping keeps me warm on this unusually brisk morning in March.

My early rapport with Michael also seems just a little bit on the cool side.  He is soft spoken and seemingly introverted, but as we play the get to know you game his sweet side begins to seep through and it doesn’t take long to warm up to this kid.

His backstory is not all that unusual. The son of a doctor in Tennessee, he and his sister Stephanie, along with their mom, Anna, made the move to California five years ago, initially to launch Stephanie into the world of acting.  A classically trained pianist and lifelong musician, then 14-year-old Michael also decided that, since he was in Hollywood,  he too might give acting a try.  He soon landed an agent and his early auditions quickly gave him the confidence that he was looking for.

“It was when I came very close to landing a lead on a Disney show called, “Kickin’ It” that I 10456086_478567745608949_7788342373032352340_nrealized I can do this,” he explains.  Now, five years and many acting workshops later, Michael is on an upward trajectory with strong supporting roles in the features, “Where Hope Grows” in which he plays a cruel bully, and “Still Life,” an indie film dealing with high school kids figuring out their future.  “Where Hope Grows” recently premiered at the Dallas Film Festival and has since been picked up for theatrical distribution by Roadside Attractions.

Perhaps his most valuable credit to date has been as a series regular on seasons 4 and 5 of “The Secret Life of The American Teenager” a show that has not only given him some financial stability, but has also brought him some fans.  He has since guest starred on various other TV shows,  slowly building an impressive resume for a young actor who has only just turned 19.

But the purpose of our meeting today is to talk about “Fair Haven,” a film where Michael gets to do the heavy lifting.  He plays the role of “James,” a musically prodigy who has been sent by his father to ex-gay-conversion therapy where they try to scare the gay out of him and return him to his family full of Jesus.  Stopping in to see his father on his way to study at the prestigious music academy, Berklee, the character discovers that his old man has spent his college fund, virtually trapping the boy in the narrow-minded confines of his small town.  James goes to work for his dad on the farm and begins the charade of dating girls.  Along the way he runs into his best friend and one time boyfriend, “Charlie,” well portrayed 10387167_487170941415296_5077640384864648015_oanother young actor, Josh Green.

So what was it about this project that appealed to him, I ask?

“The story by the film’s director Kerstin Karlhuber and the script by Jack Bryant was so well written that it immediately spoke to me.  After reading it I put myself on tape. I read some scenes and played the piano and sent it off to the casting director.  As luck would have it I landed the role and soon found myself in the town of Victor, New York making this movie.

And how was the shoot?  “Short and fast paced.  I was in most of the scenes.  I had very little down time and when I did I kept mostly to myself.  This was my first lead and I knew the responsibility I was a carrying but truthfully, by the end of the film I was emotionally drained.  I remember calling my sister from my hotel room and telling her I don’t know if I can muster the energy for my remaining scenes, I was that exhausted, but somehow I did and we got it done.”

Having seen a rough cut of this film, I can say that Michael’s portrayal MG (1)of “James” is poignant and vulnerable, a trait that he was now allowing me a glimpse of as our outdoor breakfast chat continued.

We switch gears to talk about his life in L.A.  How does he spend his time?

“I study.  Watch a lot of classic movies.  My parents recently gave me a boxed set of films from the 50s and 60s.  I loved them, especially enjoy foreign films.  Truffaut, Godard, Andrei Tarkovski.  Brilliant directors.”  What about hobbies or pastimes?  “Basketball.  I’m a big NBA fan.”

So what is it about acting that made him put his classical music training on the backburner for now?  “Acting is a craft of the heart,” he tells me.  “It’s my chance for real artistic expression.   Although the television work I’ve done is important, I hope to be able to continue my current momentum as an actor in indie films.  I think features give me a chance to be a part of perhaps more meaningful stories. I’ve definitely grown as a person doing these last three films.  On “Still Life” in particular I made some amazing friends.  People I hope to know for a long time to come.”

So whose career would he likeFairHaven_Poster_03 to emulate?  Which directors would he love to work with?  “Terrence Malick for sure.  I loved “The Tree of Life.”  Wish I could have been in that one.   Chris Nolan, David Fincher, those are probably some other favorites that come to mind.  As far as actors, I really admire Ryan Gosling’s work and the way he has managed his career.  Andrew Garfield is another actor I admire and reaching back a few years, Timothy Hutton who was so brilliant as a high school kid in Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People.”

With the temperature dropping we pay our bill and stand in the parking lot to warm up in the sunshine as we say our goodbyes.  I’ve enjoyed this interview.  Michael’s turned out to be a cool guy who is setting the foundations for a long lasting acting and music career.

I climb in my car and follow him out of the garage.  He zips away in his little Mini Cooper, perhaps to continue chasing the dream.

From where I’m sitting I’m willing to bet he finds it.

Visit Michael Grant’s Facebook page HERE.

Learn more about FAIR HAVEN on Facebook.